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Pushing hard science into history

June 18, 2015

Matthew Wright

I am amazed at how easily hard science intrudes into almost any subject. A few years ago I edited a volume of New Zealand naval memories for Random House – stories from participants in our Second World War sea battles. One of the accounts proudly explained that our light cruiser Achilles had been good for 36 knots, and pushed towards that at the Battle of the River Plate on 13 December 1939.

HMS Achilles of the New Zealand Naval Division at the Battle of River Plate, 13 December 1939. Artwork by John Lloyd. Lloyd, Arthur John, b 1884. Lloyd, Arthur John, b. 1884 :New Zealand's flag flies in the first naval battle of the war; H M S Achilles by skilful handling evades the shells of the Admiral Graf Spee [Auckland; 1940]. Ref: C-055-004. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23233527 HMS Achilles of the New Zealand Naval Division at the Battle of River Plate, 13 December 1939, flying the biggest New Zealand flag her crew could find (‘Make way for the Digger flag’, a sailor cried as he rushed deck-wards with it). Credit: Lloyd, Arthur John, b. 1884 :New Zealand’s flag flies in the first naval battle of the war; H M S Achilles by skilful handling evades the shells of the Admiral Graf Spee [Auckland; 1940]. Ref: C-055-004. Alexander Turnbull…

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